“I wanted to explore issues beyond the boundaries of health and health care,” says Elorm Avakame, M.P.P./M.D. ’18.Avakame chose to pursue a concurrent M.P.P./M.D. degree at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Harvard Medical School because “in Medical School, we are all training to be doctors, but here at the Kennedy School, people are training for so many different walks of life,” he said. “From anti-poverty policy to transportation and criminal justice, the Kennedy School has been a fertile environment for this exploration.“At HKS, I’ve had the opportunity to take courses in areas I’ve never studied before, such as safety net policy and behavioral economics.”During his time at HKS, Avakame was a Sheila C. Johnson Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership. “This fellowship has been what I had hoped it would be: a group of like-minded peers working on the issues I’m passionate about. It’s been really great to be around a group of smart, passionate African-American students who share not only my identity but also my aspirations and sense of obligation to our community.”It’s an obligation Avakame doesn’t take lightly.“My story is the story of what it means to have a community to lean on,” he says. “My parents were immigrants from rural Ghana, and now my dad is a tenured professor at Rutgers and my mom is a certified public accountant.”The family’s journey began when Avakame’s father, a subsistence farmer in his home country, went off to university with just two pairs of pants and one bar of soap. He later earned a scholarship to study in Canada for his Ph.D. but didn’t have the funds for the plane ride from West Africa. His family and community pooled their money so he could pursue his dream. “I don’t think about my work as creating solutions to other people’s problems. Instead, I think of empowering people to solve their own problems.” — Elorm Avakame, M.P.P./M.D. ’18 “My parents taught me and my brother that we are who we are not just because of our own efforts but because of the people who invested in us,” he says. “And the only way to pay these people back is to pay it forward. We owe it to them to invest in others.”Avakame wants to invest in underserved communities, particularly in black children.“I know that black children have worse outcomes across so many measures of health,” he says. “Beyond that, as a black person in America, I understand that the opportunities I have were won for me by the black people who came before me. Black people were once murdered for assembling to learn to read; they have died fighting for the right to earn an education and to vote. I am obligated to continue fighting for a better life for my people.”Racism is a fundamental public problem that, he says, should be more central to the curriculum at Harvard Kennedy School. While he is grateful to his black professors whose courses addressed racism as a deep-seated challenge affecting people’s health, well-being, and prosperity, he says the School must add to their ranks. Similarly, he is thankful for his fellow black students but says, “There aren’t enough of us to bear the burden of everything from the Journal of African American Public Policy to the Black Policy Conference. If the Kennedy School wants these things to continue, we need more African-American students to come.”As he prepares to move to Washington, D.C., to begin a residency program in pediatrics at Children’s National Medical Center, Avakame says, “I don’t think about my work as creating solutions to other people’s problems. Instead, I think of empowering people to solve their own problems. It’s very easy to go into communities and impose what we think is the right answer. Over and over again at the Kennedy School, I’ve been reminded that public leadership is public service, and that this notion of service means assuming a position of humility relative to the people you’re trying to serve.“It’s clear to me that what makes people sick and unhealthy are things that happen far before they get to a doctor’s office,” he says.With his degrees from Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Medical School, Avakame is poised to influence the upstream factors that cause ill health among at-risk populations.This article was originally published on Harvard Kennedy School’s Student Life web page in May. It has been lightly edited.
76ers rumors: Philadelphia sends Jimmy Butler to Heat in sign-and-trade, inks Al Horford to 4-year deal Here are three takeaways from free agency so far:The Nets are winningIt appears like Brooklyn is acquiring two of the top three free agents that hit the market this summer in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.Both Durant and Irving are prepping to sign multi-year deals, according to ESPN, which will surely make the Nets a top contender in the Eastern Conference for years to come. Related News Knicks address missing out on Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving: ‘We continue to be upbeat and confident’ Free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are taking less than the max to allow DeAndre Jordan to get the $10M annual salary with Brooklyn, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2019Even though Durant likely won’t play at all in 2019-20 because of his Achilles injury, Brooklyn has a lethal mix of star power and developing young talent that seems poised to make some noise.Utah is sneakily making significant upgradesThe Jazz didn’t sign the biggest superstars available, but did acquire some quality players that could make them considerably better next season.Utah traded with the Grizzlies to bring in a talented, all-around point guard in Mike Conley to pair with Donovan Mitchell in its backcourt. It also reportedly acquired an underrated wing in 6-8 Bojan Bogdanovic.Conley is a much better scorer than Ricky Rubio and will give the Jazz a higher offensive ceiling. Bogdanovic shot 42.5% from behind the arc in 2018-19 and has solid versatility, which will allow him to play at three different positions.The Jazz got better at two starting spots and finished fifth in the Western Conference last year. They are a serious threat to surpass that mark in 2019-20, and they did this without losing any major pieces.Things don’t look good for the KnicksNew York was rumored to be among the favorites to land Durant and Irving all year, but obviously that didn’t work out.It moved Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas in what was likely an attempt to free up max slots for stars, but reportedly hesitated to offer Durant max money. The Knicks were also hoping to get former Duke star Zion Williamson in the 2019 NBA Draft but got RJ Barrett at No. 3 overall instead. NBA free agency officially began Sunday, and it was eventful.Quite a few teams made notable moves to adjust their rosters, and some had more desirable outcomes than others. Barrett is still an elite prospect, but Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier probably won’t help him turn New York into a contender anytime soon. Reportedly landing Julius Randle was a bright spot for the Knicks, but their free agency looks like it will be extremely underwhelming, considering the expectations they started the year with.